I just thought I would take a moment to talk about how great it is to have animals around our clinic. We generally have an assortment of dogs and cats that come and hang out at the clinic. My dog and cat happen to be regulars and love to be around the therapists and the kids. Ripley is a golden retriever that loves attention. This is a great thing because he will be so patient with the kids that want to pet him and lie on him (and sometimes attempt to ride him like a horse) all because he loves the attention he gets from them. What’s great about our set up is that we have a large window that looks out from our staff room into the waiting room and Ripley gets to hang out by the window and watch the people come in and out. What amazes me the most is that he knows who is there as they walk in. There are people that take him on walks when they come in and the minute the door opens (before he can even see them) he gets so excited. What is great about the window is that it lets even the kids who love the idea of a dog, but are still a little scared or nervous around a dog, or those who are allergic but really like dogs, still have a chance to interact with him as they engage with him through the window. He also gets to practice showing his true talent as he lies there (which is to look as pathetic as possible to lure more people in to pet him)!
Besides the fact that I think my animals are great I have seen some of the benefits of them. It teaches kids how to be gentle with others. It can help them to try something new or work up the courage to overcome being nervous about interacting with the dogs. I have seen kids who are on the autistic spectrum, or not very verbal increase their talking when interacting with Ripley. Its also a great motivator. So many of the kids want to pet the dog or the cat and we are able to use it as a ‘reward’ at the end of a session so that they will work hard during the session. Also, when I’m working on pedaling an adapted tricycle or riding a bike or tryke I’ve had Ripley outside ‘watching’ the kids and its amazing to hear their imaginations. They want to know what Ripley is saying as they ride the bike. They also want to ‘show’ him how to do different skills. And there is often great motivation to take him for a walk at the end of a session. Another great thing is that kids are more excited to come to therapy if they know that the animals are going to be there.
On top of this anecdotal evidence its just amazing to watch the unconditional love that happens between kids and animals. Do any of you have pets or service animals or have a chance to be around therapy animals? What are your stories?
For more information on pet therapy here are some articles on our pinterest board.
And to end, here’s a video of Ripley and ‘his’ cat Rogue playing together!